Likewise, it is normal for the attorney’s staff to “screen” client calls, and make a determination whether to forward the case to the attorney, or whether it is something the attorney would not be interested in. At that point you might be directly forwarded to the attorney if he or she is available, the attorney might call you back once they’re free, or the secretary might set the appointment with you, on her own authority. Again, it depends on the attorney and his or her regular practices. And obviously, if the case is not the kind handled by the attorney both you and the attorney would want to know that ahead of time, so that you don’t waste each other’s time. All calls to the attorney’s office for an appointment or legal advice are confidential, and should come under “attorney/client privilege.”
However, if you actually have a criminal charge or one that seems likely, then you will most certainly want to meet the attorney before you make a decision. I normally have a free phone consult with the client where I can find out a few of the details and advise what I would likely charge. If the case is one I’m interested in taking and the client has the funding, an appointment is made where things can be discussed in greater detail. Again, this is my individual way of doing things, and it can vary with other law offices.
The ideal way to “check out” an attorney is by an Internet search. You can get an initial feel from the website, and an Internet search can also reveal lectures, books, and articles he or she has written, etc. However, I strongly advise that anyone charged with a self-defense or weapon crime hire an attorney who is pro-gun, and is either an NRA member, a member of another pro-gun organization, has a weapons permit or all of the above. An attorney–no matter how great they are–cannot properly defend one of these charges unless they are also pro-gun.
An attorney must charge a fee that is enough to cover the time he or she will need to put into the case to do a good job. If they don’t charge enough, you will not get the representation you deserve and your case will suffer. Likewise, just because an attorney charges more than anyone else doesn’t mean they’re any good or better than another attorney who charges less. Getting a “cheap” attorney simply to save money is the same as throwing the money away. If the attorney does a lousy job–whether you spent a lot, or next to nothing–it was money down the drain.
The best place to find out about an attorney is from a judge, prosecutor or public defender who knows that attorney’s reputation, or going into the courtroom and during a break, actually asking one of the court deputies the names of some good defense attorneys, or what they think of a particular one. Also, you could check with friends or even the personnel at the local gun range to see if they know somebody who is “really good” vs. somebody who just does it. You can also check with the NRA, GOA, Armed Citizens’ or any other pro-gun group who they recommend. While most larger organizations do not have any real stats on how good the attorney is, at least you know they are “pro-gun” and took the time to get listed with that organization.
Stephen T. Sherer
Sherer and Wynkoop, LLP
730 N Main St., P O Box 31, Meridian, ID 83680
Good question. I have met with three or four members of ACLDN (for a nominal fee, so don’t everybody rush over here) at their request to see if they were comfortable with me or would want someone else. We talked about self defense in general, and in one instance I was asked what I would do if I was called at 3:00 a.m. One man had done some Internet research about me, so he already had done some vetting before our meeting.